VICTORIA-Finance Minister Mike de Jong may have started his budget speech today with a school report card metaphor, but on education funding, the BC government isn't making the grade and is letting BC students down, said BC Teachers' Federation President Jim Iker.
“At a time when British Columbia should be investing more in public education to match increasing enrolment, inflation, downloaded costs and growing needs, the 2016 budget is another failure by this government to support students,” said Iker. “The projected increase in funding is just another shell game that fails to account for increases in student enrolment and rising costs.”
Today, the government confirmed that it is moving ahead with part two of a significant cut to school districts. Last year, districts were forced to cut $29 million in “administrative savings” and this year it's a further $25 million cut. That means the government is simply moving money around instead of making meaningful new investments to match increasing enrolment.
“The ongoing underfunding of education has led to a situation where class sizes are increasing and class composition continues to get worse,” said Iker. “There are 16,516 classes in BC with four or more children with special needs and 4,163 with seven or more. That means tens of thousands of BC students are learning in overly complex classes and are not getting the support they need.
“This budget shows Premier Clark was insincere in her pledge two years ago to make class composition her number one priority. BC kids deserve better than empty promises. It's time for this government to reinvest in education and properly fund BC schools.”
Another area that will worry teachers, students, and parents is the complete absence of any new funding to support the implementation of the government's revised curriculum. “In order to successfully implement the revised curriculum, we need to see new funding for resources and training,” said Iker.
One change teachers will be relieved to see is the additional funding to hire more social workers to support vulnerable children. However, in his speech, Minister de Jong glossed over his own government's record on child poverty when he said, “no child should have to live in poverty and uncertainty.”
“The BC Liberal government has ignored calls for over a decade to create and implement a child poverty reduction plan,” said Iker. “With 20% of children in our province living in poverty, BC has one of the worst records in Canada. Teachers see the impact of poverty in our classrooms every day as many students come to school hungry. We need the government to take the problem seriously and move forward with a child poverty reduction plan.”